I had a great uncle Orville on my dad’s side of the family. When I think about a growth mindset, it’s Uncle Orville who comes to my mind.
He was not athletic or good at any sports. He had a contracting company, and he was good at building things. He also had a wonderful upbeat personality and a great outlook on life.
My dad tells me when Uncle Orville started golfing, he was terrible. My dad laughed about it. Orville was so clumsy and couldn’t golf at all.
But Uncle Orville was determined to be good at golf, so he practiced and played in all of his free time. He set up a practice area on his property, and he practiced at the golf course range.
After several years of continuous practice, Orville became very, very good at golf. When he retired, he bought a house on a golf course, lived there, and golfed nearly every day until his death.
I suspect his tremendous improvement had a lot to do with his strong desire to play golf. But even more importantly, he believed that he could get better with practice. This belief is the essence of a growth mindset.
Exactly what is a growth mindset, and what does it mean to have one?
1. Don’t limit yourself by doubting your ability.
Have a growth mindset and know that you can do something well if you find out how to do it correctly, and you practice religiously.
My Uncle Orville, a brilliant engineer, was clumsy, but he wanted to get better at golf, so he kept working on it until he was great at it. He didn’t let his lack of athletic prowess stop him. Uncle Orville got some lessons from a pro golf instructor to learn the right way. Then he diligently practiced every day.
You, too, should get good advice and instructions about doing whatever you are striving to do. Then you have to be committed to continuous improvement by regular practice. It would be best if you had the right direction to succeed. Practice doesn’t make perfect; practicing perfectly makes perfect.
You need to have the right frame of mind to develop a growth mindset. Society teaches us that IQ is the ultimate characteristic in deciding someone’s intellect, but that’s not accurate. Intelligence is not set. Your brain is like a muscle. Just the same as any other muscle, you can exercise it and expand it over time. And although your mind might not expand physically, you evolve new neural networks when you push yourself or learn to do something you haven’t tried before.
The more you stretch yourself to learn something new, the more your neurons fire, multiplying your thought patterns.
Don’t limit what you try to do by doubting yourself. Get good instructions, practice correctly, and you’ll be a better, more powerful person for it.
2. Embrace challenges.
When you take chances, you are taking a risk for unknown consequences. If you embrace those challenges, you’ll grow and reach your maximum potential. Fear of failure compels many people to avoid challenges. But failing is unavoidable if you try anything worthwhile, and it creates the most growth. Overcoming failure prepares you to achieve more extraordinary things because of how much you learn and expand your potential.
I won’t bore you with all of the same examples everyone uses, like Lincoln failing eight times and Edison figuring out how to construct a working lightbulb after thousands of failures. I’ll give one short quote from Henry Ford, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Embrace failure and what you can learn from it, even when it may be painful to do so. You can overcome challenges with a positive mindset and persistence.
3. Persist in the face of setbacks.
The real success begins immediately after a failure. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Every successful person has failed, but they kept going. They were doggedly persistent.
When I was in my early 20s, I went canoeing with my best friend, Geno. We rented the canoe from a recreation service. Our canoe tipped over in a violent bend, and it got jammed up against the bank. The rushing water held the canoe as it was like a scoop with 1,000s of pounds of pressure.
We worked together for 30 minutes, trying to get it out. We repeatedly failed to pry the canoe from the vise-like grip between the current and the rocks along the bank.
Then Geno said, “We can’t get this out. Let’s leave it.” I replied, “$%#@ no! I’m not paying $400 for this canoe!” After another 15 minutes of manipulating the canoe, we got it free.
That episode early in my life taught me the value of persistence. For me, it means that you have to keep trying different ways until you figure it out and get it right.
Setbacks can often feel like impassable obstacles. It’s easy to stop trying. But setbacks don’t mean you can’t do it. Your growth mindset should compel you to learn and figure out how to overcome the obstacles and succeed. The secret is to keep trying until you are successful.
4. See effort as a path to mastery.
Working hard is what every successful person does. The problem is that it’s so easy to make excuses to get out of doing the hard work.
People who excel at something make it look easy, so we think the success is due to a unique talent. Since we aren’t blessed with this God-given talent, we have an excuse to quit when going gets tough.
Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, in business, people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates went through periods where they slept at work every day. Mark Cuban, the Billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, worked, slept, and ate in the same room for years honing his skills.
Essentially, working with intense and deliberate effort is how you achieve success. The more you get knocked down, the harder you have to work. And the better equipped you become at crushing challenges.
When you alter your mindset and see that concentrated effort is your pathway to mastery, your possibilities become unlimited.
5. Learn from criticism and grow.
Criticism is always hard to swallow because it can be humiliating to admit mistakes. The thing you need to do is the hardest. You need to seek out criticism and discourage people from being nice all the time. You need to toughen up your feelings if you want to be the person who will achieve great things.
Instead of feeling hurt, approach criticism as a chance to improve yourself. Are you perfect? No one is perfect, so anyone, including you, can improve anything they do, so seek critical feedback to get better.
Use the success of others as inspiration.
Instead of seeing others as competitors, try to see them as role models and share their success. Try not to feel jealous, but feel admiration instead. The growth mindset you are developing means you want to learn and find out what you can do to improve yourself and be the one others look to for inspiration.
Chances are, the one you may be jealous of succeeded because they overcame hardships, worked very hard, and developed into what they are now.
The benefits of a growth mindset
Adjusting your frame of mind to a growth mindset can transform your life. It expands your possibilities because you see challenges as stepping stones and not as excuses to quit. Your growth mindset empowers you to set goals and work towards them through thick and thin. What does your growth mindset benefit you?
Tony Robbins, a super successful guy who overcame unbelievable odds, said many things about failure.
The Final Word on Key Principles of a Growth Mindset
I want to leave you with a concise idea you can build on to have a vast and overpowering growth mindset. You can get better at anything if you seek help, learn from setbacks, and keep trying.
Watch this video and empathize with how hurt Elon Musk is by his hero astronauts, saying he shouldn’t be building rockets. And learn from his response, “I don’t ever give up! I mean, I’d have to be dead or completely incapacitated [to give up].”
I wish you great success and happiness in developing your growth mindset!